Unit: 37th Battalion
Secondary Unit: Labour Company
Service Number: GS/38244
Date of Death: 2 August 1916 – Died of Wounds
Grave: II. E. 71.
William was born at Codd’s Lane, in Ruskington, in the June quarter 1882, the son of Samuel (Bricklayer’s Labourer) and Susannah (née Dixon) Smith. He had 6 older brothers and sisters, Mary Ann, Wright, Edward, Betsy, Mark and Susan, and a younger brother, Herbert.
In January 1890 William’s father, Samuel, died, aged 56, and was buried on the 20th in Ruskington Cemetery, Old Plot, Grave A.91.
The Census of the following year (1891 Census RG 12/3934) shows Susannah staying with the Saxby family in Hull, with son, Herbert. The Census records her as “Sick“.
The rest of the children were still living at Codd’s Lane, under the care of Mary Ann, aged 24, who worked as a “Pea sorter“.
There is no record of any of the family in the 1901 Census, but by 1911 (Census RG 14/20079) William had moved to 41 Grosvenor Street, Crosby, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire (home of the Pilsworth family), where he lived with his wife, Elsie Maud, whom he had married in 1909. He was working as a “Bricklayers Labourer“.
By the time of William’s enlistment the family had moved again to live in Bermondsey, Surrey. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects records that after William’s death his wife received £6 18s 5d (£6.92 – equivalent to about £770 to-day ).
With effect from 19 February 1917 Elsie Maud was awarded a Pension of 18s 6d [£0,925] per week for herself and their 2 children, Elsie Florence (born 18 November 1913) and William Samuel (b. 14 May 1916 – so would never have been seen by his father). [£0.925 is equivalent to about £85 p.w. today.] They were living at 32a Tranton Road, Bermondsey.
His mother, Susannah, returned to live in Ruskington until her death in February 1921, aged 77. In 1901 (Census RG 13/3048) she was living on High Street with her daughter, Mary Ann, and son, Herbert. She had returned to work as a “Pea Picker“. In 1911 (Census RG 14/19618) she was living on her own on High Street. She was buried in Ruskington Cemetery, Old Plot, Grave B. 168.
William enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers, at Rotherhithe, in June 1915. He was posted to the 37th (Labour) Battalion when it was formed in Falmer, West Sussex, on the 6 June 1916, and moved to France as part of the Army Troops in July 1916. The Battalion was mostly engaged in road construction on the Western Front.
On 26 August 1916 ‘The Lincolnshire Chronicle’ published William’s Obituary:
” DEATH – News has reached Ruskington that Pte. William Samuel Smith, son of the late Samuel Smith, of Ruskington, and brother of Mrs. John W. Baker, Jubilee Street, had died of wounds last Saturday. He joined the Royal Fusiliers as recently as June last, and had been in France some three weeks before he received the wounds, which terminated fatally. He leaves a widow and two children, and was living in Bermondsey, London, when he enlisted. “
The circumstances of William’s death from wounds received is not known, but he was the only member of the 37th Battalion to lose his life in the month either side of his death on 2 August 1916, most likely at the 36th Casualty Clearing Station, based at Heilly from April 1916. He is buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Merricourt-L’Abbe.
- ‘The Lincolnshire Chronicle’ – 27 November 1915 and 26 August 1916 (page 2)